An interesting follow-up to my post of yesterday appeared in HaAretz this morning…. it is worth reading.

Why did the U.S. turn away Gaza Fulbright scholars?

By Barak Ravid

WASHINGTON – “This is one of the oddest things we have encountered in recent years,” an Israeli official said of a long sequence of events that began with intense American pressure to allow two young Palestinian students to leave Gaza to study in the United States and ended with the U.S. barring their entry and canceling the visas it had granted them.

It all started around two and a half months ago, when Israel turned down an American request to allow seven Palestinian academics, who had received scholarships sponsored by the State Department, to leave the Gaza Strip to attend a visa interview that would enable them to leave for the U.S. The whole matter turned into a mini-crisis between the State Department and Israel’s Foreign Ministry. At its height, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice contacted Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni with a request to allow the students’ departure.

After a series of Israeli and American security-assessment procedures, all seven academics received visas. Four left to study in the U.S. Israel maintained that the remaining three had “a problematic security background,” and hinted that they had ties to terrorists. But the Americans stood their ground, demanding that the three leave for the U.S., especially given that their visa request had been approved. The request was relayed to Israel by senior State Department officials in Washington, led by Rice’s undersecretary for Middle East affairs, David Walsh. Rice, too, was apprised of the details.

Expired passport

Last Sunday it was decided that two of the three – scholar Fidaa Abed and high school student Ahmed Ma’ari – would head to Jordan and proceed to the U.S from there. To avoid another confrontation with the U.S. administration, all the relevant bodies in Israel were mobilized for the effort. More than 20 officials from the Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry, Border Crossing Authority, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and the Shin Bet security service, as well as several diplomats at the Israeli Embassy in Washington worked on “the project.” “The State of Israel went out of its way for these two guys,” said a senior Israeli official who coordinated the effort.

Last Tuesday afternoon, “the operation” was launched. The two academics arrived at the Erez checkpoint, where several diplomats from the American consulate in Jerusalem waited for them, in order to accompany them to the Allenby Bridge crossing. The trip to the border, which started with smiles and optimism, quickly turned into a comedy of errors that greatly embarrassed the State Department.

An Israeli government official said the American diplomats, who exerted intense pressure on Israel to enable the departure of the two, forgot to check if their passports were valid. During the trip to Allenby Bridge, they realized that the high school student’s passport had long since expired. When they reached the border crossing, the staff of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories discovered this fact and issued a special travel document.

That was when the problems really started. According to the Israeli official, the Americans did not update the authorities in Jordan, whose territory Gaza residents are not allowed to enter without special permission. And so, after they had already passed through the Israeli terminal, the two Palestinians were left in the no-man’s land between the two border crossings, with their entry into Jordan not approved.

However, a senior American official in Israel said the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem and embassies in Tel Aviv and Amman had worked with the Israeli and Jordanian governments to fully coordinate the crossing. The source said the students’ 12-hour delay had no connection with any action taken or not taken by American officials.

A protest on the road

At 8 P.M., when the border crossing closes, the Israeli border terminal workers approached the U.S. diplomats and suggested they return to Gaza and try crossing the following day, after having dealt with the passport matter. “I’m not interested, I’m not moving from here until they open the bridge,” said one American diplomat and sat down in the road in protest.

After consulting with the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the office of the Shin Bet chief, it was decided to leave the bridge open, until the Jordanians finally agreed to the Americans’ request at 9 P.M. and allowed the Palestinians to pass. But this was not the end of the two Palestinians’ travails.

The high school student remained in Amman for a few days. His friend departed for Washington on Saturday night. However, after a 12-hour flight, when he got to the border control station in Washington, an unpleasant surprise awaited him. The U.S. immigration officials informed him that his visa has been canceled and put him on a plane back to the Jordanian capital. The high school student, who was still waiting in Amman, was notified that his visa had been canceled, too. He already returned to Gaza yesterday, disappointed, while his friend remains frustrated in Jordan.

Israel has asked the State Department in Washington for some clarifications, and local officials are especially upset at the behavior of the American diplomat at the Allenby Bridge. “It’s a disgrace,” said a senior Foreign Ministry official. “If I had behaved that way at an American border crossing, I’d either be in jail or no longer in the U.S.”

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department told The New York Times, which first reported yesterday on the revocation of the visas that the visas were canceled because of new information received by the U.S. authorities. The paper reported that Rice was unhappy about the way these cases were handled and that a thorough review had been ordered to prevent a recurrence.

Gisha, an Israeli organization aimed at protecting Palestinian freedom of movement, says the problems the Palestinian students faced are not out of the ordinary.

“In addition to the particular students who did not receive visas for technical reasons or unexplained security reasons, there are hundreds of students in the Gaza Strip who were accepted by universities abroad and have valid visas,” said Gisha executive director Sari Bashi. But, she added, “Israel issues a comprehensive ban on students from Gaza going abroad, as part of its policy of collective punishment toward Gaza residents, thereby impinging on the right to education of hundreds of talented young people who want to study, develop and create a better future in our region.”

Some 1,100 university students wanted to leave Gaza to study abroad last September, of whom 480 went to Egypt and from there traveled elsewhere, according to Gisha. However, Israel has not operated such trips from Gaza to Egypt since January.


  1. August 6, 2008 at 18:47

    What an embarrassing situation that Israel can just openly lie like that and get away with it as though nothing happened.

    Funny enough, it was the American “Department Official” who risked their life and limb by sitting down right smack dab in the middle of the Allenbay crossing just to make sure the bridge stays opened for Palestinians.
    The Palestinians had no issues leaving the checkpoint after this many countless police state measures against them. They were lucky and so were the people escorting them quite honestly.

    Then, the EXCUSE is made that the so called “Visas” had expired and that it was the U.S. Government’s fault for not noticing the error in the expired Visas therefore not seeing that the Palestinians have ties to “TERRORISTS” or should not be trusted.

    Only anyone with two eyes know it was obviously Israel’s and Turkey’s representatives INSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, who likely forced the officials to not accept the Visas and to keep those Palestinians from ever arriving.

    I recall a similar situation that erupted not more than 6 months ago at Allenbay corssing yet again, with a Palestinian Journalist, RECEIVING the exact same “humane” treatment which devolved into the same kind of finger pointing everywhere.

    Israel’s “OFFICIALS” or partisans like Charlie Black, Michael Chertoff, Netanyahu and Mike Mukasey are never at fault for the racial profiling of Palestinians………its always the UNITED STATES and its errors who is at fault. Always pass the buck, never blame the people who cause this mess to begin with. ALWAYS make sure Israel is seen as the victim to everybody.

  2. robertsgt40 said,

    August 6, 2008 at 18:48

    What this is really about is keeping a lid on the truth that is happening in Gaza. Our Zionist press has kept the truth out of the MSM(since they own it). Could you imagine these Gazans in an academic invironment? This could spread like a cancer. At least a cancer for Israel.

  3. August 6, 2008 at 19:44

    I hope it does this time, I hope to GOD it does because religious Zionism is a cancer. Its not even “religious” and is the greatest threat to humanity the world will ever see.

    Its even a threat to everyone in Christain history including Germany, despite our very “WORST” crimes as a christain community— We could never, in any shape or form, outdo the barbaric treatment of the Israeli Zionists.

    Perhaps all through the ages in our many faults, we were poisoned by this “self induced” chosen ship. But no one could clearly outdo the Israelis who encourage and absolutely foster this beast with total false innocence.

  4. Robin said,

    August 6, 2008 at 21:46

    I found this

    killing in Gaza…… on Sun Mar 02, 2008 11:27 am
    am Fidaa Abed From Gaza, Palestine.

    We live in Gaza in a very bad situation. It is a holocaust. 100 people were killed in 3 days. some of them are children and babies.

    I need to hear your comments about the situation here.


    One response:
    Re: killing in Gaza…… on Sun Mar 02, 2008 11:39 am
    well man no doubt i see that killing !! and all that shit !!

    man i know its very bad and hard and everything !!

    to be honest man i wish i can make his world 1 world so that we all live in it !!

    without fighting on lands or oil or blah blah !!

    and 100% SURE man that not all israilian are bad in every country there is the bad persons an good persons !!

    and belive me man its not their fault !!

    I BLAME THE GOVERMANT and the media cuz they feed ppl with bull shit !!

    to mak them belive that killing is a goodthing and that fighting for lands and oil and power is the best thing ever !!

    Response from Fidaa (after a few more comments)
    I understand that this forum is for fun and culture exchange, however, I don’t think that what I wrote is apart from the forum goal.

    I just wanted the members to share me with what is happening now in my home town. This is part of our culture.


    Fidaa finished with:
    Thank you for all your feelings.

    I appreciate that and hope the peace to cover all the world.

    _________________________________________and he was turned back at Dulles because he was a security threat, he had attended Gaza Islamic University, attached to what Congressman Mark Kirk, Christian Zionist, said was a Hamas school, the same congressman who seeks to tie the US ballistic missile system to Israel’s.

  5. Jerry said,

    August 7, 2008 at 00:31


    What a country!

    What a democracy!

    What a world leader!

    Don`t you just love it?

    God bless!

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